article by Christopher Brennan via nydailynews.com
The 15-year-old winner of an essay contest about white privilege says older residents of the well-to-do Connecticut town who caused a national debate about the competition could learn a thing or two from the youth.
Chet Ellis, a sophomore at Staples High School, won the competition’s $1,000 first prize for writing about the “unavoidable” racial incidents growing up in Westport, which is 93% white. “I can come at the issue from a young black teen perspective rather than all the old white men of Westport,” he told the Daily News Tuesday, a day after receiving his award.
The contest put on by the town’s diversity council TEAM Westport gained widespread attention after some residents reacted strongly against it, saying it was an indictment of an affluent community that considers itself welcoming.“There are no barricades here. Nobody says if you’re black or whatever, you can’t move here,” Bari Reiner, 72, said in January.
Other parents said the board overstepped its bounds by bringing up white privilege, the unseen advantages given automatically to white people in a society where positions of power are dominated by people who look like them.
Chet, who moved to Westport from Morningside Heights, Manhattan, six years ago, said in his essay that he had not thought about white privilege until he moved to the wealthy suburb.
He recounted incidents where a white student said the N-word when talking about diversity in an almost all-white classroom, and another classmate saying he would have an easier time getting into college because he is black.
“I was stunned,” Chet wrote, “and mumbled something instead of firing back, ‘Your parents are third-generation Princeton and your father runs a hedge fund and yet you think my ride is free?”’
The teen, who wants to go into law or social work to help others, told the News that the episodes in his essay were just two examples of all the racially tinged interactions he has had in Westport, such as when a middle school teacher called him Jamal despite no student at the school having that name.
He urged more inclusive discussions and sensitivity about privilege, words echoed by his mother Amanda Freeman, a white college sociology professor at University of Hartford.
To read more, click here: Black 15-year-old wins contest on white privilege in Conn. town – NY Daily News